Music, Pop Culture

Tia McGraff Releases EP

I’ve always heard artists opening an album or EP with the title cut as an unstated admission of confidence, a bit of attitude, in the material they’re putting out. If so, it is justified here. “With Love” opens Tia McGraff’s EP of the same name with gentle acoustic guitar before the arrangement soon expands. She introduces light percussion, additional string instruments, and pumps up the pace for the song to take flight. It’s a controlled soar, however, as McGraff and her cohorts are careful to never go too far. There is a pop sensibility behind the writing that is impossible to ignore, but it never compromises the material.

Melody is a big reason why “Clockwork” hangs around in the listener’s memories long after its final notes fade. It’s an abiding facet of the album’s overall excellence but Tia McGraff;s vision of roots music, filtered through her Canadian consciousness, doesn’t limit her gifts to melody alone. Instead, it finds a great match in the way McGraff wreathes her words around those melodies and she excels with that during “Clockwork” in a way that stands out from others. The seamlessness of how they fit is impossible to ignore.

“Go Your Own Way” is not a cover of the Fleetwood Mac classic, but nonetheless provides essentially the same sort of kick. Anyone you talk about this song with will tell you that the percussion is the tone setter, without question, but the banjo and guitar push the song’s energy level as high. It’s everything working at the same time, side by side, that gives “Go Your Own Way” the sort of surging vitality you’ll want from songs such as this.

It’s an astute selection for the EP’s single as well. It isn’t quite representative of the songs written for this release but shares enough common ground that it doesn’t stand out like a musical sore thumb. “Organic” is its musical sibling, though not quite a twin. It leans more into the rootsy traditions of McGraff’s music rather than flirting with the rock posturing heard in the earlier “Go Your Own Way”. It does hold up the same level of lyrical excellence defining the release thus far.

The sculptured and exquisite poetry of “Night Hawk” flies even higher thanks to a melodic arrangement and great swells of imagistic passion coming off the words. Her writing is superb on each of the EP’s seven songs, but it is here, the second to last track when we hear how much the combination of her voice, and the writing is essential to With Love’s success. Triumph is a more appropriate description.

She sounds like she’s at the peak of her powers with this release. There’s a relaxed and thoughtful grandeur present throughout this track that never bogs listeners down but, instead, rises and falls with full and warm life. Tia McGraff has many talents but her latest EP With Love, released on the date of her beloved dog Jake’s somewhat recent passing to pay tribute to his life, pays tribute to every life and every voice.

Cleopatra Patel

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